Come As You Are: On Geek Love, Destroy All Monsters & Nirvana

geek love destroy
Geek Love by Katherine Dunn and Destroy All Monsters by Jeff Jackson

Do adults ever genuinely overcome the ultimate paradox of teenager-hood: Wanting to belong but simultaneously wanting to stand out? If you’ve ever dined out with a bunch of women (in particular), you know what I mean: People rushing to find the best spot at the table (definitely not the end, and without a doubt as close as possible to whoever the “leader” is), then trying to wrangle the conversation their way as they luxuriate in their “uniqueness.” Does it sound like I’m bitter? No, not really. Despite the fact that I am human, and therefore have to on occasion fight the lonely experience of feeling left out, I mostly don’t let people’s need to “push to the front” color my days. Here’s why: I have met the most interesting people by letting others do their thing and hanging out with the “remnants.” It also means that ever since I was a young girl, I’ve been a pretty keen observer and can suss out a social situation and get a read on the people present pretty well. As a ‘non-shy introvert’ (you see, I’m actually a pretty great conversationalist and have a knack for including others…guess I can brag with the rest of them), I can see the inconsistencies in the way people act and the lengths that many will go to be the center of attention. I see it in local interactions, in politics, and certainly in social media. FYI: The more interesting people are often the ones hanging back because they know they can’t win at this game so don’t exert as much energy trying.

stuck in the middle
Stuck in the Middle With You… (For the record, this is a free-to-use stock photo, and I’m sure these women are perfectly nice!)

 

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Grit or Glamour? Your (Casting) Call: On Milkman and La La Land

milkman
Milkman, by Anna Burns

The Oscars just passed. I didn’t watch, although I love the movies. That being said, I’m usually behind in my screenings, so let’s tie this in to the Oscars two years ago. Bright side: I’m talking about an extremely current book. You win some, you lose some.

I love the movie La La Land, and I will make no apologies for that. I know there was a bit of a fuss during 2017’s Oscars season (and not just because Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty awkwardly announced – incorrectly – that it had won Best Picture) because there were so many more “meaningful” pictures that required attention. I’m a big fan of “meaningful movies,” so I understand the impetus toward criticism of this seemingly fluffy film. But I feel like there was a big component of La La Land that people weren’t acknowledging: The entire thing was cleverly framed as a Hollywood fantasy however you chose to interpret the story. (Hello, people are dancing on air in the Griffith Observatory.) Meanwhile, the other “best picture” contenders were powerful and gritty views of real-life issues. Continue reading “Grit or Glamour? Your (Casting) Call: On Milkman and La La Land”

Where the Streets Usually Have Names: On Maps, The Hate U Give, and An American Childhood

two books
The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas and An American Childhood, by Annie Dillard

“The setting of our urgent lives is an intricate maze whose blind corridors we learn one by one—village street, ocean vessel, forested slope—without remembering how or where they connect in space.” – Annie Dillard, An American Childhood

“To me, it’s so weird to have a gate around a neighborhood. Seriously, are they trying to keep people out or keep people in? If somebody puts a gate around Garden Heights, it’ll be a little bit of both.” – Starr, in The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

What is childhood but a map of what’s considered normal? Children are born knowing and internalizing their surroundings, starting with (hopefully) a parent’s arms, moving on to rooms in their homes and then expanding to the streets outdoors. It’s how it goes: Healthy children start exploring, wondering – and then crawling, toddling, zipping away, using the maps (both literal and emotional) that are at their feet.

woodridge
Thank you, Google Maps, for transporting me back to my childhood.

The house I lived in until I was 12 was in a neighborhood with twisty roads and lots of hills. Or at least I think so; I haven’t truly seen it in over 25 years except for maybe two quick drive-throughs. I imagine if I were to go back now, it would feel easy to navigate, but even at age 12, it felt very labyrinth-like. One day when I was about 5, I went “jogging” with my mom. I decided I had had enough – because 5-year-olds and jogging with adults don’t usually go hand-in-hand – so she agreed that at SE 18th Street, we could part ways because that would be just one turn and about 10 houses away. And it was 1981, so of course. (Side note: SE 18th Street is also a steep-ish hill that my brother and I later decided to ride down while sitting on his skateboard. All was well until a surprised driver at the bottom of the hill nearly hit us and then trailed us home to yell at us in our driveway. AH, MEMORIES!)

Continue reading “Where the Streets Usually Have Names: On Maps, The Hate U Give, and An American Childhood”